Artichoke is driving forward international debate about the scientific and aesthetic aspects of light. Nicky Webb explains how.

Next month Artichoke, best known for producing unforgettable, ambitious events that invade our public spaces, is producing a second Lumiere festival in the lovely medieval city of Durham at the invitation of the County Council. Lumiere 2009, which consisted of artworks exploring the medium of light in all its forms, attracted more than 75,000 people and we’re hoping that this year’s festival will be just as popular with residents and visitors alike.

As part of Lumiere this year, we’re presenting a project called Lux Scientia. We find that collaborating with other artistic organisations has a positive effect on us, the artists we commission and the cities in which we work, so the project involves a collaboration between Lumiere and two other international light festivals in the cities of Torun in Poland and Tallinn in Estonia, in the belief that this will create new ways of thinking and foster new relationships and a richer understanding between the three countries.

The three cities – which all, interestingly, enjoy UNESCO World Heritage status – are all known for their light festivals. The Valgus Festival in Tallinn (Estonia) has been established for more than a decade, and began as an attempt to improve the harsh winter for the population, providing not only an enjoyable event, but also one which has a positive impact on health. The Skyway Festival in Torun (Poland) is one of the flagship events produced by TORUN 2016, a municipal cultural organisation established to coordinate the efforts of Torun to become the European Capital of Culture in 2016. And of course Lumiere is the new kid on the block – an ambitious new festival produced for the first time in 2009 in the wake of the city’s own first light festival, Enlightenment, in 2008.

The project has been made possible thanks to a grant from the European Commission’s Culture programme – the first time that a Durham project has successfully accessed the fund. We have come together to drive debate about the scientific as well as the aesthetic aspects of light and how different artists’ visions relate to their installations in different spaces and environments. Three artists - Simeon Nelson (UK), Dominik Lejman (Poland) and Leonardo Meigas (Estonia) - have each been commissioned to work with a scientist based in a local university to create a work of art that will be exhibited in each of the three festivals. The project builds on the positive economic impact of each festival, promoting the cities as places of dynamic discussion and innovation while enhancing the visibility of each city. A discussion about the nature of science and art will take place during all three festivals, to be followed by an international symposium which will be hosted by the European Commission in the UK at its London offices early in 2012. Learning from the collaborations will be written up in a report in which will be published after the event.


Nicky Webb is Co-director of Artichoke.
Lumiere, Durham, 17-20 November 2011
Skyway International Light Festival Torun, Poland, 9-13 August 2011
Valgusfestival Tallinn, Estonia, 22-25 September 2011